PBI-Guatemala accompanies CCDA Verapaz at an assembly of communities impacted by the Rocja Pontilá dam
On February 15, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted, “Yesterday we accompanied CCDA Verapaz and its leaders to an assembly of communities affected by the Rocja Pontilá hydroelectric company.”
“Ancestral authorities and community people expressed concern about the construction of the project in the Río Setoc village. They demand canceling the agreement signed by the former Minister of Energy and Mines one day before leaving the government, arguing that a prior, free and informed consultation was not made.”
What: The proposed 40-megawatt, 10 metre (33 feet) high Rocja Pontilá hydroelectric dam would direct the flow of the Icbolay River into a 6 metre (20 feet) diameter tube that would then pass through turbines to generate power.
Where: The dam would be built on and divert the flow of the Icbolay River, one of the main tributaries of the Lachuá Lagoon National Park. The park is located in the northwest corner of Alta Verapaz in the north central part of Guatemala.
Why (the concern): Several organizations, including the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), have stated that the dam would put the ecosystem of the Lachuá Lagoon National Park at risk. For CONAP, the biological wealth of the area would be affected if 90 per cent of the flow is taken from the Icbolay River. They say that the capacity of the river to provide ecosystem services to the local population, such as access to water, fishing, tourism, would also be affected. As noted above, impacted communities say that a free, prior and informed consultation did not take place.
When: The company submitted its first Environmental Impact Study (EIA) in 2013. Their study was approved by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) in November 2016. The Constitutional Court (CC) declared the provisional suspension of the environmental licence in June 2017. The Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) issued its final approval on January 13, 2020, one day before the change of government.
Who: The hydroelectric project is promoted by the Rocja Pontilá Central Integral Development Project, a joint-stock company run by Aurelio Asturias Ekenberg.
PBI-Guatemala has previously noted that six defenders and members of CCDA Verapaz were murdered between 2016 and 2018. Also, two members of the organization were disappeared during that time, including Abelino Zacarias, who had filed an injunction against the Rocja Pontilá hydroelectric dam.
PBI-Guatemala began accompanying the CCDA Verapaz in July 2018.